Saturday, November 17, 2012

Celebrating Shichi-go-san

Futenma Shrine

Imagine wanting to put up a Christmas tree and attend a holiday mass but you've never celebrated Christmas before, know basically nothing about Christianity, have a less-than-conversational level of English, and no native friends.  That's basically how I felt about Shichi-san-go (七三五, celebrating when children turn 3, 5 and 7 years old).

So why do it? I've been interested in Japanese language and culture since I was in grade school - the mix of cutting edge technology and ancient traditions is completely fascinating.  Plus, I feel like there isn't as much dressing up and celebrating with boys as there is with girls.  It seems like stores are overflowing with clothes and shoes for girls and the boys section is relegated to a small corner. Generally, girls get to go overboard with prom, sweet 16 parties, and their wedding day while boys are pointed in the direction of the closest tux rental and told to not wear sneakers.  Every year for Birthday Ball I pick out a dress and shoes and hair and makeup and jewelry, and all Chris has to do is get the same hair cut he always gets and dust off his dress blues.  So I try to take every opportunity to dress the boys up or celebrate their special moments, like flying koi for Boy's Day.

To get Owen dressed, I first had to find where to buy a kimono and get all the pieces he'd need (if anyone is curious, this website breaks down all the pieces to a Japanese man's formal attire). Then I needed to watch this video and read two websites (this one in English and this one in Japanese) before I finally got the obi (wide sash) and hakama (pants) tied properly (I think).  (One major thing that was messing me up was not using a himo (a thin sash) to hold the kimono in place before putting the obi on.  I only have my yukata's himo, so I used the white sash from my robe instead of putting the boy in something girly.  But seeing him dressed like a little samurai was definitely worth it!

As I was getting him dressed this morning, I told Owen he was wearing fancy clothes to celebrate that he's a big boy now (Dad fed him lunch and kept him entertained with Sesame Street while I fussed with the kimono).  Maybe when he turns 5 he'll understand more about Japanese culture or at least get excited to dress up.

We decided the best thing to do was get Owen into just his kimono for the car ride.  Then I put on his hakama and haori (jacket) when we arrived at the shrine.  Not sure if that was the most couth thing to do but I didn't see another way of getting him in his car seat without messing up his pants.  (The hakama is almost like a long skirt with very specific pleats and the buckle of his car seat needs to go between his legs.)

Owen being silly in the car
At the Futenma shrine, the blessing ceremony appeared to take place several times during the day.  We arrived around 1pm when one blessing was ending and not too long afterwards another one started.  There was a small room to the left of the shrine where we were told we would need to fill out some sort of form and donate 3000 yen to be allowed into the ceremony.  Chris decided to pass.  Unfortunately for Owen, the packages of chitose ama (longevity candies) were only handed out at the end of the ceremony and he left without his treat.

The rain put a damper on pictures.  I also feel weird taking pictures of other people's kids without asking.  So even though the little girls in kimonos and kanzashi (hair ornaments) were beyond adorable, I didn't want to intrude on another family's moment.  Owen was having trouble walking in his sandals and needed to be carried around.  After a few pictures we decided to take the boys home.

I had fun experiencing another aspect of Japanese culture and Owen has another special memory of growing up in Okinawa ^_^

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